In the morning she found a messenger with two notes, one from Elinor and one in Bruce's strong hand, waiting her as she went down to her late breakfast. Elinor's was very loving, ignoring the disagreeable Sunday night and telling her that they were suddenly called away on business of Bruce's, and that Judith, after spending a few days at Rockham with Mrs. Shelly, was to come to share her room at Artemis for the rest of the time. All had been arranged with Miss Ardsley by telephone while Patricia was yet in bed.
Patricia was so excited by this surprising news that she hurried off to Miss Ardsley's rooms with Bruce's unopened letter still in her hand.
Miss Ardsley explained that Elinor had called up about eight o'clock and as the Directress had been positive she had seen Patricia cross the courtyard on her way out just before that hour, she had told Elinor that her sister was not in.
Patricia had to go away without expressing her indignation at the mistake, and after she had read Bruce's short note in her own room, she was glad to remember that she had not sinned again.
"Small Sister Pat," the note ran. "I know it isn't time for the puncture you requested, but would it bother you if I asked when our own Miss Pat is coming back? We're mighty lonesome for her. Elinor is dropping some big tears while she thinks I am not looking, and I know it is because she misses her old chum. Judy is divided between the desire to go to her Mama Shelly's and her wish to find her jolly sister Pat. Do you think you could look her up and tell her we're all sure that she wants to see us as much as we want to see her?"
Patricia sat for a long time with the note in her hand, and then she put her golden head down on it and cried heartily.
Then she sat up, and her face showed that the mists were beginning to clear from that doleful future which had haunted her since last night.
"What a goose I've been, and what a perfect duck Bruce is," she said heartily and then laughed out loud at her zoological titles. "Oh, how I wish I'd had a chance to talk to Elinor. She couldn't have my letter by the time she left, and she must still think me horrid."
She rose and stood looking out of the window at the blue expanse above the housetops, with part of the smile still lingering on her pink lips. She knew that she had come back, as Bruce called it, and a delightful sense of relief stole over her.
"I'm so glad, glad," she whispered, clasping her hands tight against her breast. "I'll have a chance to show them that I'm really sorry for my silliness. I'll do something, I'll have something ready for them when they come back that will prove I'm done with sentimental nonsense now and for always."
She could not think what it should be, but she knew she could find out and she turned from the window with the old sunny expression on her face.
"I'll try to be unselfish, even though I am a failure," she said determinedly. "Bruce never guessed that it might be quite as hard for a failure to be unselfish as for a successful person. He's always been successful, thanks to Aunt Louise and his own splendid self."
The memory of her unknown aunt's secret disappointment came to her now with a throb of understanding love. The dark, brave face over the desk in the library at Greycroft rose vividly before her, and, as at other moments of need, courage and determination flowed from the serene eyes into Patricia's wistful ones.
"I'll bear my troubles, too," she whispered, smiling back at the vision. "I'll remember that I am your namesake."
CONSTANCE'S OTHER SIDE
Whatever Patricia did, she did thoroughly.
She had almost a week before Elinor's return, and she set about finding something to do that should prove her return to herself, and more even than that, for she wanted tremendously to be better and stronger than she had ever been.
The haunting sense of failure was with her, but she would not stop to listen to it. She practiced her exercises with the greatest care, she went to the concerts for which she had cards, and, remembering Madame Milano's song at the Filmore evening, she bought the music and learned the thing by heart. She was afraid this might not be strictly honorable, since Tancredi had forbidden her to sing songs, but she had such a strong conviction that she was already a failure that she hoped she might be pardoned this solace to herself.
"You're looking a lot gayer since you got settled," said Constance Fellows one afternoon as she sat in Patricia's room, mending the russet frock. It looked odd to see Constance with a needle, but she was deft with it.
"I guess I'm more used to being by myself," replied Patricia, not wishing to go into details. "I'd never been alone, you know, and it was strange at first."
Constance nodded, but her clear eyes showed she understood. As she went on with her sewing she said cheerfully:
"It is better to rub up against all sorts of people. You don't come to realize what living means till you've seen what the rest of them are up to. Cotton-wool isn't the environment to bring out beauty, after all."
Patricia smiled absently. "But all the pretty things are put in nice pink cotton-wool," she said, thinking of the jeweler's boxes in Rosamond's case.
"Ah, but that's when the pretty things are finished and done," cried Constance, dropping her work and leaning forward with fire in her eyes. "How about when they are being shaped? There are hammers there then, and fires, too, and they are battered into their beautiful shapes with cruel blows. My word, Patricia Kendall, can't you see it? It takes plenty of hammering and burning before it gets to the cotton-wool stage."
Patricia caught her earnestness. "The trees and flowers and skies aren't hammered into shape," she argued, with half a vision of what Constance meant.
"They are the result of hammering, perhaps," returned Constance quickly, "but that doesn't matter so much. They're the works of God, and that sort of thing can just grow, like a lovely disposition, but the things of earth have to be made into shape with rough hands. Look at the people you know. How many of the selfish, pampered ones amount to a row of pins? Can you honestly say that you know anyone who hasn't been the better for a little hammering?"
Patricia thought swiftly of Doris Leighton, of Mrs. Nat, and she shook her head.
"That's all that's the matter with the Fair Rosamond," Constance explained. "She's been in cotton-wool all her life, and it's going to rob her of her chance to give something to the world——"
She broke off abruptly, seeming to be much moved, and, rising with a disturbed air, walked up and down for a few minutes while Patricia tried to go on with her own darning as though nothing unusual had happened.
Constance dropped into her chair with a low laugh. "Don't mind my preaching, Miss Pat," she said without any suggestion of apology in her candid tone. "I always get so excited when I'm proclaiming human rights."
Patricia looked puzzled and she answered quickly: "Human rights—my rights to the bit of hammering that belongs to me. Auntie, you know, advocates cotton-wool so strongly that I suppose I'm a bit daft on my end of the argument."
Patricia had been silent, but she spoke slowly and with a light breaking on her face. "I believe it's true, Constance," she said earnestly. "I can see now that it's the only way. I was getting terribly spoiled in cotton-wool, and——" She stopped because she did not want to seem to complain of Rosamond. "I'm glad Miss Ardsley got this dear room for me," she ended brightly, "I've had such fun since I've been here."
She saw that Constance was not too much deceived, and to turn the talk she seized the first thing that came into her mind.
"Does your aunt still object to your living here?" she asked, and then was annoyed with herself for her own lack of tact, for she recalled that it was not Constance but Rosamond who had told her of the aunt's objections to Artemis Lodge.
Constance laughed easily. "She's coming around," she replied as though she were used to discussing her private affairs with Patricia. "She is so pleased with my altar-piece in All Saints that she's ready to forgive me anything. Auntie is really awfully good."
Patricia was alight at once. "Your altar-piece, Constance?" she cried. "Oh, how splendid! When did you do it? Why didn't you tell me about it sooner? Where is it now?"
Constance laughed, yet she was deeply gratified, for she had been more drawn to Patricia than to any of the others. "It's in All Saints, of course, where it should be. You didn't think it was in the Bandbox or the Comique, did you?" she bantered. "Auntie paid for it, and so she's privileged to criticise, you know."
"Do let me see it," begged Patricia. "I haven't a thing to do this afternoon. Let's go and see it."
Constance demurred at first and then gave in. "The air will do us good, anyway," she said, "We've been cooped up here for an hour or more."
Patricia found the altar-piece a revelation of another side of Constance—a side she had not dreamed of, and she gave it the tribute of silence for a long five minutes.
Then she spoke very softly: "I know now why you believe in bearing the everyday toil and trouble of the world. It's because you've been painting that. Why, Constance, it's—it's—triumphant."
Constance was looking at the painting and she forgot she was not speaking to herself alone.
"And why not?" she said in a deep breath. "He didn't fear that poverty and pain would keep anyone out of the kingdom of gladness. It was what He was telling them all the time—those exclusive, rich men who wanted to get the secret of His serene life. It wasn't that He liked pain and poverty, but He wanted everyone to know that it was the fear of them that shut people out of the kingdom of gladness. Why shouldn't He look triumphant when He'd opened the door so wide?"
Patricia was too much stirred by this revelation of the depths of Constance's nature to speak, and they soon went out of the dim church into the sunlight of the avenue, with its roar of hungry life and surging energies.
"I think I'll run over to Auntie's now that we're so near," said Constance at the next corner. "You don't mind, do you?"
Patricia didn't in the least mind. She wanted to go for a walk in the Park and try to catch and put in order the whirling thoughts that pulsed through her. "I'll see you tonight after dinner," she promised.
The Park was full of people. The spring was in the air. Patricia felt strange sensations, stirring thoughts which Constance's picture had called into life.
"The Kingdom of Gladness," she repeated over and over again, making it a rhythmic march to keep step with. "The Kingdom of Gladness. And I thought Constance Fellows just a nice, clever, funny girl!"
She looked at the people on the walks and in the vehicles with a new eye. She wondered if they were putting in their probation for that kingdom and when she saw a pinched face or a shabby coat, she felt like crying out to them, "Oh, don't mind it very much, for it's the best way into the kingdom."
She was very much agitated and excited, and she felt she could not go back to the Lodge, where she had given a half promise to spend the five o'clock hour with Rosamond. She walked about for a long time and sat down on benches when her mood ebbed, starting up again with a shining face as her emotions got the better of her again.
She was sitting on a bench when she saw Mr. Long coming briskly along the bridle path on a beautiful bay horse. He did not see her, and she jumped up and ran over to the side of the path, holding up an eager hand to attract his attention.
He was off his horse in one moment and shaking hands with her the next.
"This is very jolly," he said heartily. "I didn't know you were in town or I'd have tried to look you up. Miss Merton told me when we were at the theater with the Filmores last night that your family had left town for a while."
Patricia explained, and Mr Long in his turn told her that he was only in for a brief stay. He needed a secretary, a sort of caretaker for his chicken books, he said, laughing, and it must be a female person, since he had determined to bring Danny home from school for good and all, and he felt that a woman-body was a crying necessity.
Patricia understood at once. "He wouldn't get on with Mrs. Jonas," she admitted with a smile. "Have you anyone yet?"
Mr. Long had not. He had seen dozens of them, but they were all either too young or too old or too stupid or too clever.
"It's going to be mighty hard to fit Danny and the hen accounts, too," he confessed. "He's so dead set on pretty people, and most of the pretty ones are stupid or conceited."
Patricia had a sudden thought that made her dimple. "Must she be very old?" she asked eagerly.
"Mrs. Jonas will chaperone the place as ever," replied Mr. Long. "She's needed mainly for Danny, if the truth must be told. I've got to try the mother act on him now. Poor kid, he's never had anything to look up to in that line."
"I know someone," said Patricia guardedly. "I can't tell you about her now, but if you'll come to the dance on Friday I'll show her to you and you can do the rest."
Mr. Long thought Friday was too far off, but Patricia was firm, and he ended by saying he'd come. They parted at the next entrance and Patricia hurried off to Artemis Lodge feeling much elated.
"I'll ask Doris about it in a roundabout way, so she'll say just what she thinks," she planned, and she was so eager to seek out Doris that she hurried through her dinner before Rosamond had begun on her first mouthful, excusing herself by saying that she had some business on hand that would not wait.
She found Doris in her room, trying to make up her accounts, and the process was evidently not very agreeable work, for she flung down the pen at Patricia's knock and slammed the covers of the book with unusual vigor.
"I never can bear to face that horrid book," she confessed with a little laugh. "I'm always spending more than I should and it makes me so ashamed of myself, when Mother needs so many things."
Patricia was finding it very easy. She had not much trouble in learning that Doris was in search of a more paying position. Her domestic science was only half a day's work and she needed more. Patricia thought it safe to hint at something that might be in sight if she came to the dance on Friday.
Doris had not intended going to the dance, since her gowns were rather shabby and she could not think of anything new, but on Patricia's insisting, she said she would go if she could be late. She had a lesson in French at the Settlement House—Patricia almost shook her head at the thought of Doris taking free lessons in anything until she recollected the Kingdom of Gladness—and she could not afford to miss it.
"I'll wait for you," Patricia promised. "I haven't any guests—or only someone who won't mind. Come over to my room for me, and we'll go down together."
Constance met her on her way to the Red Salon, where the girls often gathered after dinner for chat, the Blue Salon across the way being reserved for reception of visitors.
"The dance is going to be quite wonderfully fine," she told her with as eager interest as ever a girl showed in a party. "Auntie's coming and I'm going to have a splendid, gorgeous new dress. I've planned it all out since I made up my mind. I'll get the stuff tomorrow and have it made in a jiffy."
Patricia looked at her in some wonder, until she remembered that the kingdom Constance was trying to enter was one of gladness.
"Of course you want to have a good time," she said aloud. "What color is it to be?" meaning the dress.
"Yellow—goldy yellow," replied Constance deliciously. "And I'm going the whole length, gold slippers and all!"
Patricia beamed. "You'll look perfectly stunning," she said, and then she caught her breath. "Who's playing?" she asked, with a look toward the open door.
Constance listened. "That must be the little Polish countess," she replied. "No one else does it that way."
Patricia had a vision of a fascinating, elegant creature with sorrowful eyes and plenty of furs, and she gave a little cry of expectation.
"Come along. She's beginning the 'Papillion'," she cried. "And I simply can't miss it."
PATRICIA DECIDES TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT
"Oh!" said Patricia on the threshold.
"S-s-sh!" warned a number of restrained voices.
They smiled kindly at her as she stood in the doorway, though they plainly would not tolerate an interruption. Patricia had not meant to interrupt. She was only surprised.
The firelight played over the lounging figures of the girls who were grouped about the dim warm-colored room, lighting up a golden head or the gleam of some piece of polished furniture or glass, picking out the faces of some of the intent listeners and flinging a ruddy shadow over others, flickering over the grand piano and the figure seated before it.
Patricia had cried out her "Oh" at the sight of this figure. It was so very different from her idea of what a countess—and a Polish one, at that—should be that it gave her quite a shock, and for the tiniest fraction of a second made her forget even the Grieg music.
The little woman at the piano was small and rather wrinkled, and was wearing an old-fashioned ulster which fitted her small form rather carelessly. The small sealskin cap on her drab hair did not even pretend to be a stylish one. It was rather worn, even in the kindly firelight, and gave an emphasis to the shabbiness of the whole figure.
Patricia sank down beside Rita Stanford and stared under cover of the fire-flicker. How disappointing some countesses were!
But she did not stare long. She soon forgot there was a shabby figure at the big piano, because she was seeing the butterfly soaring up and up in the sunshine, with the jewels glowing on his gorgeous wings, wings that were soon to be broken and trailing. She saw the pulsing of the broken wings, and felt the pity that was pulsing through the sunny world at this darkening tragedy. The wings pulsed slower and slower. The butterfly was dead!
Patricia found her eyes wet, and she heard the soft applause in a sort of daze—the music that melted her also always intoxicated her—and she sat without a word till the countess began again.
It was Shubert's Fantasia Impromptu this time, and there was absolute silence as it ended.
The little shabby countess gave them a moment for recovery, and then, whirling about on the stool, she said, with only a trace of accent:
"That is my farewell. Tomorrow I leave for the home-land."
There was a chorus of questions at this and that ended the music. Patricia enjoyed the humorous chatter of the experienced, happy-go-lucky countess, and she laughed over her accounts of her travels and privations while lecturing in the West and writing books at odd times, but she did not want to rub out the "Papillion" and she soon left the Red Salon and took her way to her own room, thinking of a number of things.
"She's had a hard time, too," she thought. "I suppose she'd never have played so if she hadn't known trouble and tragedy, too, perhaps. Oh, dear, it's very comforting when one is rather in low spirits and things have gone wrong, but it doesn't look half so attractive when there's fun ahead."
She shook her head and then laughed her rippling laugh at herself. "I'm getting too deep," she warned herself. "I've got to stay where I can touch bottom. Constance may go far ahead, but I've got to go slow or I'll be getting silly again on the other side."
She kept to this wise decision and whenever she found herself beginning to pose as a being enlightened through suffering she made a face at herself in the quaint mirror and ran away to do something "plain and practical" for someone.
And so the days sped and Judith came back from Rockham full of news and wondering greatly at the change in her dear Miss Pat.
"You're awfully meek now, aren't you?" she asked her suddenly, after Judith's little trunk had been unpacked and the things stowed in the most convenient drawers. "You used to be nice, but you didn't give up to younger persons like you do now."
Patricia started to say that she had learned a great lesson, but she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, and she said instead that she was treating Judith as a guest now, and so she had to be polite.
Judith was only half convinced. She had not been studying people's faces and searching for meanings in their expressions all these months for nothing. The tales about Rockham alone would have sharpened her to that extent.
"You're different," she said positively. "And I don't know whether I like you better or not. You seem too good to be true, somehow."
Patricia's derisive laughter only made her more emphatic. "You aren't half so gay as you were, and you practice as though you were doing a lesson instead of because you couldn't help it, like you used to," she declared. "You're nice to that gorgeous Rosamond Merton and you let her wipe her feet on you every time you go in there. I've seen how meek you are. If it wasn't you," she said with a pucker in her brow, "I'd think you were up to something. Why don't you sing like you used to?"
Patricia said that she had been at a song, but it was not to be known, and she made Judith promise not to tell Constance or anyone else at home before she would sit down at the shining piano Bruce had got a musical friend to select for her, and sang the song through to its end.
Judith still looked puzzled. "It's lovely, of course. Your voice always is," she said loyally. "But somehow it doesn't ring. The glad sound has gone out of it. That's it!"
Patricia had been knowing it herself ever since she had realized that Tancredi was only keeping her for friendship's sake, and it had been almost too much to bear alone. Without thinking, she blurted it out.
"I can't really sing, after all, Ju," she told her passionately. "Tancredi is only keeping me on for this quarter and then she'll let me down."
Judith was aghast, but she kept her head. "When did she tell you?" she demanded sharply.
"She hasn't just exactly told me in words," confessed Patricia. "But she's shown me very clearly. And Madame Milano hasn't ever asked to see me again, though I know she's seen Rosamond twice since I went to the 'Hour' at her hotel. If I hadn't been with Bruce and Elinor to hear her in opera every time she sang, I'd never known she was in New York at all."
Judith was very white and still. At last she said with conviction, "I think you're making a mistake, Miss Pat. I don't believe it's true that you aren't going to be a success. You know how you tried and tried to make yourself ready and fit for the music, and I don't believe that all that hard work is going to be wasted."
Patricia smiled with the new knowledge that had so recently come to her. "Oh, Judy dear, you are too young to understand," she said with serene satisfaction; "but it will not be wasted. One must suffer to grow glad."
Judith opened her eyes. "Now I know you're queer," she declared with a wag of her head that made her uneven mane quiver. "You didn't use to talk such stuff."
Patricia wanted to tell her it wasn't stuff, but somehow she could not find the right words to explain her feelings, and so she left it go, feeling very old and wise indeed beside the crude, inexperienced Judith.
They had a very good time together, nevertheless, and Judith made friends with the girls in a way that pleased and surprised Patricia. "That kid sister of yours is a wonder," said the slangy ones, and the others declared that Judith was a dear. Altogether, Patricia had never enjoyed Judith's company so much.
"I'm sorry you can't come to the dance," she told her with regret, but Judith did not care in the least, she said. She was going to spend the night with Rita Stanford, with whom she had struck up a close friendship—the first that Patricia had known her to make.
She seemed much absorbed in Rita. She took walks with her while Patricia was at her lesson or otherwise occupied, and she went to afternoon service with her. She was so much with Rita when not with Patricia that it was a surprise to Patricia to see her coming in the afternoon of the dance entirely alone and wearing a rapturous expression. She said she had been doing an errand and Patricia was too much occupied with the finishing touches to her white net—she was putting the dearest bunches of apple blossoms at odd places on the skirt and waist—to be too inquisitive.
She noticed that Judith hung about her, seeming to be trying to make up her mind to say something, but she did not stop to ask what it was, as she supposed it merely a trifling comment or criticism on her dress.
She sent Judith over to Constance's room to borrow a spool of pink silk and then forgot her in the delightful task of deciding whether the apple blossoms ought to go on the sleeves or not.
Judith came back with the spool and a yellow envelope which she had signed for. "That's what made me so long," she explained, but Patricia had hardly missed her.
The telegram was from Elinor. They were coming back and would be at the dance. "Coming home tonight. Save a dance for Bruce. Love. Elinor."
Patricia was wild with delight. "Oh, Judy, won't it be fine?" she cried with quite her old gay laugh. "I'm so glad they're coming."
But before Judith could add her rejoicings the bright look had died into a quieter expression and Patricia said, "I was forgetting that you weren't going to be there. I wish, oh, I wish you could go."
"Well, I can't and there's an end of it," said Judith calmly. "And I hear Rita beginning to get things ready. We're going to make fudge, so I'll have to be off."
She was at the door before she remembered. "Constance told me she'd stop on her way down for you if you changed your mind about going late," she said briskly. "She wants you to see her dress, anyway, before anything happens to it. She says she's sure to wreck it. She's so used to good tough stuff that she'll walk right through this one."
Patricia nodded brightly and Judith hurried off across the hall, where Rita's welcome reached Patricia's ears. "Dear old Ju," she thought fondly. "She's always doing the right thing. She's such a comfort."
Then she smiled to herself at Constance's message. "It's good of her to come away over here, when the ball-room is so near her," she said gratefully. "I'll be glad to see her dress. She's been so secret about it."
Her face grew wistful as she thought of the dance. "I'll have a good time, I suppose," she said slowly. "Rosamond will sing, and that will make me remember I'm a failure. But Bruce and Elinor and Constance will be there, and I can have the fun of showing Doris to Mr. Long without her knowing it."
This brought the light into her eyes again, and she held up her golden head very bravely.
"I'll have a good time," she said again, with a nod at the mirror. "I may be a failure as a singer, but I needn't be as a human critter, as Hannah Ann calls us."
THE DOOR OPENS AGAIN
Patricia had got into her apple-blossom dress and had smiled at herself with a good deal of real satisfaction.
"You do look very nice," she said to the girl in the mirror. "If you were only a little bit less addicted to yourself, my child, you'd not be half bad. That's a thing you're going to get over, though, so I won't scold you tonight about it."
She shut off the light and sat down by the window to watch the first arrivals. The night was warm, even for spring, and the window was open.
"It's just like being at the play," she told herself, smiling into the warm darkness. "I'm glad I had to wait for Doris."
The courtyard was light with torches and the entrance was ablaze with torches and the windows across the quadrangle she could see figures moving to and fro, shadows fell on the curtained oblongs and inside the open ones she saw girls who were late in dressing getting frantically ready, others who were putting on their gloves, and still others with their guests even making ready to go down to the ball-room, which was the transformed tea-room not to be seen from Patricia's point of vantage.
Maids came and went across the courtyard. The first guests came in a straggling fashion, and then suddenly everyone seemed to be rushing in at once. Patricia laughed as she recognized the tall, lanky figure of Bob Wetherill, whose attachment to Rosamond Merton was the bane of that young lady's life. Then she gave a little cry. She had recognized Bruce and Elinor.
She flew down to them for a rapturous greeting and though the courtyard was filled with hurrying people she hugged both of them heartily, dropping some tears of real delight on her own apple blossoms.
"I'll be down later," she told them. "I'm waiting for Doris Leighton. Do look after Mr. Long if he comes in before I do, and for goodness sake tell him not to breathe a word about what I was talking to him about in the Park the other day."
"Mysteries, and with your late rival in the hen-yard?" cried Bruce with feigned concern. "I'll have to look into this later, Miss Pat, and see what you've been up to behind our backs."
"You'll find out later, I hope," laughed Patricia, giving Elinor another squeeze before she ran off laughing at the thought of her conspiracy with Mr. Long coming under Bruce's notice in this unexpected way.
"I had to tell him," she thought, as she hurried back to her post. "He might have found it out before it came to anything and then I'd have felt so silly."
As she sat down again she thought she heard the door open and she asked, "Is that you, Constance?"
It was Judith with her kimono over her nightdress and her bare feet poked into her slippers. She came over and cuddled down beside Patricia.
"Don't send me back right away, please. I have something to tell you, Miss Pat," she said earnestly, and Patricia made room for her on the wide seat.
"What is it, Judy-pudy?" she asked kindly. "Bad dreams?"
Judith gave a little sound that seemed to mean satisfaction with the question. "Oh, no, not bad dreams," she answered happily, cuddling closer. "Not bad dreams. Very pleasant ones. About you, Patricia."
Patricia patted her. "Tell me," she said, not because she wanted to hear the dream, but to please Judith.
"I dreamed," began Judith, sitting up to look earnestly in Patricia's face in the dim light reflected from the courtyard. "I dreamed that you were unhappy and it was because you thought that you would never be a real singer."
Patricia interrupted her with a little laugh. "Sounds perilously like wide-awake news to me, Ju," she said lightly, determined to conquer the idea which possessed her small sister that she was unhappy over her discovery of failure. "We've put that on the shelf long ago, you and I."
Judith went on, scanning her face. "I dreamed that you cried about it when no one saw you and that you felt you'd never be happy again. Now don't say 'Stuff,' for it's true. And I couldn't bear it, so I thought and thought and then I went out and walked straight down to Tancredi's and I asked for her, and found her in. She was in the music-room and I went in and said, 'I am Judith Kendall, and I've come to ask about my sister.'"
"Good little Ju," said Patricia as she took breath. "I believe you could really have done it."
It was rather dim to read expressions, but she thought a strange look flitted across the eager face that was staring so hard at her. "You mustn't take it so seriously, Judy," she said, but Judith went on.
"'I've come to see if it's true that she'll never be a great singer and I know you'll tell me,' I said to Madame Tancredi, and she just put her arm about me and kissed me quite hard."
"That's what she would have done. How did you guess it?" cried Patricia.
"And she said very seriously, 'Your sister, my dear, is going to be the greatest singer I have ever taught, if she keeps on as she has begun, or if some stupid silly one doesn't take her from the only right method.'"
Patricia felt a surge of agonizing regret for all the bright hopes that she had lost forever, but she tried to laugh down into Judith's eager face.
"That sounds exactly like Tancredi," she declared. "How strange you should dream it so truly."
"It sounds true, doesn't it?" persisted Judith. "Should you be very cross with me if it weren't all a dream, Miss Pat?"
Patricia's heart stopped beating for a moment and then it leaped to her throat.
"What do you mean, Judith?" she called out, clutching her tightly by the shoulders. "What are you trying to tell me?"
"Ow! you hurt!" returned Judith, wriggling, and then she responded to the agony of appeal in Patricia's big gray eyes. "It isn't a dream. It's true," she said. "I went this afternoon."
Patricia could not take it in for a while. She had to question Judith again and again before she could accept this gift from the dark heavens.
"Are you sure?" she asked over and over until Judith became impatient.
"I may be only fourteen and a half and very small for my age," she said with withering dignity, "but I surely know what happened just this afternoon. I'm going back to bed now, and you can believe me or not just as you please," and in spite of Patricia's protest, she stalked away and slammed the door behind her—a very unusual thing for Judith.
Patricia sat by the window in a trance of delight. The future glowed with all its old alluring colors and new ones were shining out every time she looked ahead. She was to be a singer after all. What did anything else matter?
Suddenly she laughed aloud and jumping up she ran to the mirror and snapped on the light to make a radiant face at the girl in the frame.
"We'll try to put up with being a failure as a martyr, won't we, my dear?" she said breathlessly. "Oh, how hard we'll try not to grow too pleased with ourselves now! Just remind me about it when I'm getting top-lofty, will you, please? I'm afraid I'll forget to be meek."
"What's that you're talking about?" asked Constance's voice, and Patricia turned to see her standing smiling in the doorway.
"Oh, oh, you lovely thing!" she cried in instant approval. "Why, I'd never known you in that heavenly rig."
"Thanks for the tactful way you pay tribute to my frock," replied Constance smoothly. "It is rather nice, so I forgive you on the spot."
"Nice?" exclaimed Patricia with scorn for the word. "Nice! It's splendid, gorgeous, transcendent. Nice, indeed! Turn around and let me drink you in."
Constance turned. The dress was of dull gold-colored net with great flowers about its hem wrought into the net with gold thread and the bodice was one great gold flower with trailing net for sleeves. Gold bands held down Constance's dark hair, and the simplicity of the whole made it suitable.
"I think I shall stay here and look at myself," she said with quaint gravity. "It's been so long since I've had a real whole dress that I fear it has turned my head. I'll be asking everybody what they think of it if I go down."
Patricia pushed her out the door. "They'll tell you without asking," she promised. "I wonder what Rosamond will say when she sees you."
At that Constance came back into the room and closed the door.
"Rosamond won't be here, after all," she said with a little laugh. "She sent word to her father to do the polite thing to Madame Milano when she came to sing in Boston, and her father sent a special car down for Rosamond to take Milano up to the Hub. She's on her way now. That's going some, isn't it?"
She evidently wanted to break the news to Patricia before she learned from others, and she seemed surprised at Patricia's easy acceptance of it.
"You're getting to be a wise child," she said with an approving nod. "You know that it isn't always the highest flier that gets there the soonest. Keep smiling, my dear, and it won't hurt half so much."
Patricia did smile, not so much at the slang as at the friendly spirit which prompted it. "It doesn't hurt at all now," she answered, truthfully, and then she told Constance of Judith's visit.
Constance was delighted. "Plucky Judith!" she cried. "Lucky Miss Pat. You're about the happiest girl in the world just now, aren't you?"
"Just about," Patricia confessed.
"I'm not so wretched either," said Constance with a whirl of her golden draperies. "I've come out of the woods myself. Auntie is so pleased with my altar-piece that she's giving in at last. I'm to go home next week and I can go to night life or anything else I please. She considers me safe since I could paint that picture. Funny, isn't it, that she couldn't have known me for herself?"
Patricia congratulated her with great sincerity. "I'll miss you terribly, but I'm glad for your sake," she said warmly. "You really need someone to look after you."
Constance pretended to be indignant. "After all the mending I've done in your presence, too!" she cried reproachfully. "I'll not stay to be maligned like that."
She stopped at the door to add joyfully, "Do come down soon. I want you to meet Auntie," and she then turned again to go, but again halted.
"Hello, here's the Lodge beauty in all her loveliness," she said, welcoming Doris Leighton with a cordial handshake. "Come, Doris, let's grab the future prima donna and tote her to the ball-room. I don't believe she'll ever get there by herself."
Doris was lovely, even though her dress was not so radiant as Constance's nor so fresh as Patricia's, and her serene face shone at the news which Constance poured out to her on the way down. She could rejoice in other people's good fortune, Patricia saw and, remembering the Doris Leighton of the Academy days, marveled at her calm unselfishness.
"Do come over and say how-do-you-do to Elinor and Bruce," she begged, catching sight of them across the room. "I want you to meet Mr. Long who is with them, Doris."
Constance chuckled. "Talk about clothes bringing one into the limelight," she commented. "Here I am all done up beautifully and I'm passed over for a mere beauty. I won't come and meet your snippy Mr. Long, Miss Pat. I know him, anyway, and he engaged a couple of dances with me when I met him in the corridor going over to your room. I'll find Auntie, and wait for you, when you're through with your Longs and such."
It was delightful to find herself again in the bright world of her hopes again, and even the dullest place would have seemed radiant to Patricia that night, but the ball-room with its flowers and music, with its pretty girls and agreeable men, remained in her memory as a sort of Olympian festivity, part dream, part reality, long after she had forgotten the names of the men Bruce brought for her to dance with.
She had introduced Mr. Long to Doris and left her with him and Elinor as she went off to dance with Bruce. "I think he'll like her," she said, with a backward glance, and when Bruce demanded an explanation she told him all about it.
"Do you think it a good plan?" she asked rather anxiously. Bruce's good opinion meant much to her always.
"Fine," he replied with such heartiness that she feared he was joking. A glance at his serious face convinced her of her mistake.
"It'll be the very place for Doris," he said, "Mrs. Jonas will be quite devoted to her in her way, and Danny will love her at sight. Long, of course, will have to put up with her for the sake of the others," he added with a twinkle.
Patricia pretended not to understand, though Rosamond Merton's words about the "next girl" came back to her. "I'm not going to have Doris laughed about," she said warmly. "You know she's the dearest girl we know."
"Outside the family, I believe she does stand pretty high," admitted Bruce, with a smile down into his partner's eyes. "Small Sister Pat, may I tell you how glad I am?" he asked in a lower tone.
Patricia thought he meant about Tancredi's verdict, and she beamed on him. "It's too splendid, isn't it?" she exulted, and then he stared and had to be told.
He carried her back to Elinor and there he scolded her well for ever doubting that they would have allowed her to go on if there had not been definite promise in her.
"Tancredi told me herself when I went to see her about you that she would take no one, however recommended, unless they were going to make good," he said sternly. "You unbelieving little wretch, what right had you to make yourself miserable without telling us about it?"
Elinor drew her closer as she rose to meet Mr. Long, who had left Doris Leighton with Constance's aunt and was coming to claim her for the next dance.
"Never mind, Pat dear," she said with her brightest look of love. "It's all come out splendidly and you've learned how much you really care for it. That's something, you know."
Mr. Long nodded at Patricia as he addressed Elinor. "I am sorry to be late for my dance," he said, with significant emphasis; "but I was making plans with my new secretary and the time passed quickly."
Elinor did not understand that it was Doris he was speaking of and she smiled her acquiescence and went gracefully out on the floor.
Bruce sat down in her vacant chair next to Patricia. "And now your mind is at rest about your friend's future," he said with his nicest smile, "let's talk about your own."
Patricia laid an eager hand on his arm. "Oh, Bruce dear, we won't have time," she bubbled. "It's going to be so long till I have a future. I have to study for ages and ages, and, you know, something might, might happen to me. Don't let's plan too far ahead. I'm just looking forward to finishing up the spring here at Artemis Lodge, studying with Tancredi, and then I'll be ready to go out to dear old Greycroft with the rest of you to see the summer through. What's behind that I'd rather not think about just now. I'm so glad, glad, glad to come back to the dear hopes, after I thought I'd lost them!"
Bruce smiled again at her flushed face. "You've come back with something in your hands, Miss Pat," he said with kindly gravity. "I think I see unselfishness and courage in them now."
And as Patricia's eyes filled with grateful tears, he rose, holding out a hand to her.
"Come and see Constance's aunt," he invited. "We've no right to be gossipping here all night."
Patricia sprang up with her eyes alight. "It's all come out right after all," she whispered to herself. "Oh, how happy I am, and how hard I'll try to study. I won't mind waiting a long, long time for the future. I am so glad, glad, glad that it's there!"
As she followed Bruce across the room her face was glowing with rosy hope. She whispered to herself, "Some day I shall sing in the light, too. And tomorrow I shall sing the little song Milano sang, and Judy shall tell me that the ring has come back to it."